Everything that Happened in My Last Week

For my last conversation class I greedily reserved the topic of “Magic,” eagerly anticipating the wild and fantastic responses the students would give to questions such as, “If this were a magical university, what type of spells would you teach?” and “If you could conjure food and shelter, would you still go to work?” However, I had to spend the first thirty minutes explaining the concept of magic.

“COME ON!” I yelled. “I know you’ve seen Harry Potter!”

We kept getting caught on the idea that magic is more than simply something imaginary. Finally I settled on the simplified question, “If you could say one word and it would happen, what word would it be?” I got answers such as PEACE and FLY until grandfather Ahmed raised his hand and boldly said, “If I was the president of America, I would restructure the economy.”

I finished with the classic Magic Box scenario – faced with a fierce dragon, you can pull one item out of a magic box to defeat it. There were some imaginative answers, such as a red rose or a lady dragon, but the creativity they’d shown before was lacking. All Fissun could do was repeated close and open her dictionary, looking up the same word and triumphantly shouting “GUN!” each time she found it. However, Mustafa, originator of classics such as the dream restaurant and dolphin-bird, innovatively wanted to turn the box into the basket of a hot air balloon and tour the world.

My last medical faculty class started with an sixty minute wait in the dean’s sitting room with his two-faced secretary Hateje. I usually have to sit twenty minutes before the busy dean welcomes me in, but I sat quietly and read Treasure Island for an hour before he came out like he was right on time. The class ended with a discussion of how each man met his wife. “This is a secret thing,” Bulent said. “We do not usually discuss it.” As it happens, they don’t discuss it because no one has an interesting story – they all had arranged marriages. Except Bulent, who searched for a wife himself. He approached his future father-in-law, who said his daughter must finish college before marrying. Bulent said he couldn’t wait two more years. “Unfortunately, I could find no one else. So I married her two years later.”

Both classes gave me gifts. The regular faculty students gave me a kilim, or special rug. The medical class gave me a linen shirt with a fancy graphic design around the collar, marking it as a shirt I will never wear.

Now I’m preparing to leave. The guest house manager helped. A few nights ago as I Googled myself read the news, one of the receptionists at my hotel approached me. “We need you to move out,” he said. All the suites were full, and they needed one for a VIP guest. Since I’ve only lived here for eight months, they decided I had the least right to stay. A few of the maids helped me push my suitcases down the hall to 101, the room I spent my first month in.

A friend of mine came today and checked in without me. The desk had to call me (“Mr. Cass, sorry for talking”) for confirmation of our friendship. Later, she texted me: “The receptionist just asked me what your job is.” Eight months later, and they still have no idea who I am.

Thu, the friend, and I went to the city center to watch the president of Turkey speak at an election rally, which was well attended despite the political unrest in the area. Later as we walked the crowded, traffic-less streets, a Turk stopped Thu and pointed at the flag she was holding. “You should drop that. Someone might hurt you.” Then a passerby took it out of her hands and stomped on it. Before I knew it, the man was running into a crowd followed closely by surprisingly fast police. It’s illegal to deface a Turkish flag. People came from blocks away to watch – Turks are suckers for a good fight.

After that we sat in a tea house and watched teenagers run through the streets chased by police in heavy white helmets and plastic-looking body armor. It was like watching a colorized Keystone Cops with real violence and terror. Workers ran inside the tea house holding the outdoor chai tables over their heads, piling them in the back so the rioters wouldn’t smash them, or use them to smash something else. Though we were hungry, we couldn’t leave because each time I stepped outside, another group of rock-throwers was running from angry, bouncing white helmets. I usually do a good job of avoiding demonstrations in Van; today I stayed in the city a little too long.

However, when I think about leaving I think about Murat, the herbologist, who on Tuesday during our class tea break sat with a big blue Redhouse Turkish to English dictionary, silently flipping pages. As I talked to another student, he blurted out, “I yearn for you.” Instead of offering a correction, I took him at his word.

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My Students School Me in Imagination

I wrapped up my second to last week of conversation classes with a simple discussion on creativity, because that was the only conversation topic from the Internet TESL Journal that I hadn’t used yet. With deftly crafted questions such as, “How does childhood affect creativity,” “Does Turkey have a creative culture,” and “Is creativity natural or is it learned,” I thought I had enough material to get through the two hour class without really paying attention. But I was wrong.

After my opening question of “What is something you created” dive-bombed like a bird who’s just plain tired of always flying against the wind, I countered with, “What is something you’d like to create?” To give an example of the answers I wanted, I offered two ideas of my own – an instant freezer (like a backwards microwave) and a automatic vacuum cleaner. I realize that the later already exists, but no one in Turkey has heard of a Roomba. Out here, robotic servants are a dream of the West.

Murat, the forty-something herbologist with an intense, unexplainable love for sentence length raised his hand first. He began to describe in great detail the process of photosynthesis and concluded with the idea of incoroporating chloroplast into human skin cells. Of course, he had to repeat himself three times before I understood what he wanted to invent. But as I understood, I slowly nodded and wrote, right beneath my suggestions in blue on the white board, “PHOTOSYNTHETIC HUMANS.”

The other students, taking their cue from far-reaching, hard sci-fi Murat instead of Popular Mechanics Cass, started rattling off answers with the enthusiasm of third-graders naming a class goldfish. In fact, I tried several times to curb the question and move on, but was stopped by one madly waving hand in the back and a sixty-year-old woman yelling, “TIME MACHINE! TIME MACHINE!”

We came up with the following:

Animal translator
Third eye on the tip of the right index finger
Dream recorder
Dream explainer
Dream restaurant
Chi-energy transformer
Teleportation
Nanotech classroom displays
Mind reader
Mind eraser
Immortality

I’ve already written a flash fiction story called, “Dream Restaurant.” I walked home directly from class and pounded it out before I forgot how excited Mustafa was about the idea. He went into great detail about the menus.

We spent the most time on “Mind Eraser;” Gulsen suggested it as a device that would erase selected – bad – memories and leave the client only happier. However, there was a great schism in the classroom as to whether or not a human needed bad memories. Many thought that without memories of mistakes, we’d go on indefinitely committing sins without learning from our past. However, as Gulsen explained, the mind eraser is meant to be used daily.

What surprised me, though, was the actual measure of creativity they employed. As evidenced by the overwhelming lack of response to “What is something you’ve created,” Turkey doesn’t make a whole lot of things. Complicated items like computers or cars are imported; things like brooms and axes are made in the back of hardware stores. There isn’t much invention here. But the students attacked this fantasy project with an abandon that I haven’t seen before. Ahmet actually waved both hands in the air to get my attention, to tell me about his idea for a 130 kilometer gondola…to space.

After forty-five minutes I closed down the discussion with a tea break; one hand refused to go down. “Okay, Selma,” I said. “Last one.”

“We need a machine that stops bad things and makes good things,” she said. I asked what she meant. “Like, someone will do something bad – the machine will stop them. And the machine will make people do good things.”

Unwittingly, Selma described every cinematic robot overlord that I know of. When I watch those movies, as HAL passive-aggressively tries to kill Dave or the Cylons destroy humanity with nuclear weapons, I always wonder, who was it that wanted to give the robot such power and intelligence? That person is Selma.

Improvisation Is the Middle Name I Just Made Up

I knew class was going to be rough when both Ozge and Sevda were in their chairs when I walked in. The two women make up two of my toughest critics when it comes to the conversation topics I choose. If something doesn’t fit into the scope of what they deal with on a daily basis – celebrity gossip, ancient languages, kebab – it doesn’t make them happy. So when I took my blue board marker and wrote “LABOR UNIONS” on the board, I didn’t have to see their faces to know their reaction. Because they didn’t know what the phrase “labor unions” meant. But then after I explained it, that’s when they got angry.

I made it through the first 45 minute block before stopping and admitting that perhaps I made a mistake in my lesson plan (as it turns out, there’s no such things as teacher unions or negotiating benefits, and everyone was satisfied with current working conditions. My classes fail hard when everyone agrees). So I told them when we returned from our daily tea break (highlight of class), I would have a new subject prepared.

Bluff.

I expected, on their return, for my students to give me a topic, but no one had any suggestions except 60-year-old Ahmed who wanted to talk about “science.” Thanks for making it specific, Ahmed. And for asking every day. So I took out my blue board marker and asked the students to name as many animals as possible.

By the time we filled the board up, I had a rough idea of what I was going to do…for the next three minutes. I told the students to combine two animals from the board into a new species, then take three minutes to figure out how to describe it. After I explained the directions four more times, I had their working silence which I wisely used to doodle skeletons in my notebook. When they finished, they described the animal to me as I drew it on the board and other students tried to guess. This is what we came up with:

Snake-fish
Crocodile-elephant
Tiger-bee
Spider-crow
Dolphin-bird
Snake-whale
Parrot-ant
Elephant-bee
Pig-tarantula
Donkey-horse

I had to disqualify the last suggestion on the basis of plagiarism – there already is such a thing as a donkey-horse, and it’s called a mule. Ismael, who came up with the revolutionary new idea, felt wronged and started to explain that no, cows have four stomachs, not the donkey-horse. His logic was flawless, so I let him be.

BEHOLD the awesome power of DONKEY-HORSE!

In a fit of invention that qualifies as looking into the future and pulling ideas out of my future brain after I’ve taken four hours to think about it, I then constructed a March Madness style bracket and had all ten hybrids face off against each other in a sand pit. The individual mad scientists who created them each stood up and argued their animal’s strengths. Eventually, it was decided that despite the crocodile-elephants girth, the spider-crow was simply too fearsome, especially since, as Sevda argued, it flew in packs and could throw webs from fifty feet high.

Honorary awards went to parrot-ant for best pet and dolphin-bird for tastiest. And when the students left the room, smiling and waving, I was confident that they learned nothing.

Shocked and Slightly Embarrassed

Though we have finally reached spring, the emotional atmosphere in Van is trembling. The university just had it’s rector elections to decide the new academic president. My department head Hassan, who is as beloved as his mustache is thick, was in the running as an underdog. And, just like a Hollywood film, he finished last. It was a crushing blow not only for him but also for those under him, because he is held in high regard. This week, the first since the elections, he has been seen only sporadically. The only time I saw him, I was teaching my faculty course. The topic: retirement (they said, we are too young to think about this, and I said, let’s see you come up with a better topic. This is a paraphrase, but the gist is true to what happened). Hassan popped his head in and without saying hello, spoke to the students in Turkish and then disappeared. I was befuddled, and I asked the students what he said. “He said class on Wednesday was canceled.” Well, that’s his prerogative, I said. Hassan teaches my course on Wednesdays; if he wants to take a week off, fine by me. “No,” one student said. “He canceled Wednesday – forever.”

On top of this, the Turkish idea of spring cleaning is setting fire to the fields of waist-high weeds and drinking tea as the harsh smoke floats over them. There are scattered 800 square foot areas of charred black earth that no one but me seems to notice.

However, I have recently been given an upgrade at the medical faculty. Wednesday has recently become Pediatrician Day, and as that is the Dean’s specialty, we now meet in his fake-mahogany office where his semi-hot secretary brings us tea and platters of fruit. Platters with an ‘s’. I get my own.

The pediatrician’s level of English is lower than either my regular doctors or my faculty courses. We have a lot of trouble communicating simple ideas, and at least once a session someone asks how I like their city. But yesterday provided me with this exchange:

“Your bird (beard) is gone. But you have (traces a mustache on his face)…”
“A mustache. Muh-stash. I kept it because it is traditional. I always see older Turks with a mustache. Dr. Oz – why do you wear a mustache?”
(Dr. Oz thinks)…”It is my sexual accessory!”

Everyone laughed, but I choose to ignore this comment. I have never yet heard a Turk talk about sex, and there was a woman in the room, which I assumed meant that there was zero chance Oz said what I thought he said. But as I switched topics, he asked:

“My sexual ak-sess-or-ee, correct?”

The rest of class went off without a hitch.

When we finished, I shook hands with the doctors, took an orange for the road and high fived my chauffeur on our way out. And when I got back to my room and began to change clothes, I discovered this:

A six-inch rip in my jeans, running from my tailbone to what would be my butt-jaw, with respect to the cheeks. At my best guess, it had been there most of the day, and there was absolutely no way that my group of doctors couldn’t have seen it. So besides losing a treasured pair of jeans (my only other dark pant is my 8th grade Woodland Jr. High sweats), I have also lost a little bit of credibility with my doctors.

Who am I kidding? I taught the class in a thermal shirt my dad bought used in the early 1980’s. I have no credibility.

Top Three Things That Happened Today

3) My regular faculty conversation class is supposed to last two hours, but in reality we go from 3 to 3:45, then break for tea, and finish with 4 to 4:45. During our mid-class tea break today, my students finally realized that I not only shaved my beard, but left a mustache in honor of all the old men that never wait for me to finish my sentences. I tried not to be offended that they were apparently staring straight through me during the first forty-five minutes of class, and instead concentrated on the compliments, which started with, “You should play the American in a Turkish movie,” and ended when Ismael, the perpetually late forty year old who has a sleep talking eight year old’s grasp on English, entered the tea room and shouted, “It’s the most beautiful boy in the world!” I was taken aback because, as it happens, this is word for word what my mom used to say when I came home from college.

2) During the actual classroom time we were discussing the police in Turkey. The conversation turned, as it always does, to the differences in men and women. After explaining maternity leave for the twelfth time (thirteen time’s a charm…or whatever the opposite of a charm is), one student, Murat, raised his hand. Murat is a student for whom I have given up hope, with respect to his grammar. It’s like he’s playing Mad Libs with the placement of the Mad Libs blanks. But he wanted to respond to the idea of women in the police force, so he said this:

“Women good are at airports, with the checking and the baggage and the freedom. Specially gloves women, feeling the shirt [makes a motion as if he is patting down a suspect], is nice very nice. Women good at touching.”

Luckily, I was saved from laughing in his face by the rest of the class, who laughed instead.

1) My medical faculty meets right after lunch in the fourth floor tea room of the hospital. In this class, we never bother leaving the tea room. Today it was a little bit darker because it was raining. I was sitting in the overstuffed chair I always sit in (the students asked me what word to use to differentiate between it and a plastic desk chair. I told them to call it my throne. And they do) and we were talking about the pros and cons of reading the Qu’ran in Arabic.

And I fell asleep in class.

I used to do this all the time as a student at the University of Arkansas, but I’ve never done it as a teacher before today. It felt the same, though. My head started to nod forward slowly as I fought to keep my eyes open. Eventually, it fell completely forward and I snapped awake, wide eyed and looking from face to face to see if my students noticed. If they did, they didn’t show it. Unfortunately, I was completely lost as to what we were talking about. I hadn’t corrected any of the English that had been going on in the last ten minutes. So to cover it up, I jumped out of my seat and said, “Who’s up for a second round of tea?”

Professor of Misinformation

Van is famous for its breakfast. The cream and the honey and the whatever the brown stuff is. It’s all good, even if I don’t know the names. However, the free breakfast in the guest house where I live is not very good. The olives are shriveled like they’re deflating in outer space and the cucumber slices have a specific taste. I thought cucumbers were supposed to taste like water?

I usually eat only the bread, the pre-packaged honey and the egg, however they’ve chosen to prepare it on that specific day. Sometimes I eat the cheese, but those slices are really hit or miss, depending on the day. So this morning when one of the students who works in the kitchen brought me my plate, I got really excited because there was a new item involved in my feast. It was a piece of cheese, next to the other two types of cheeses that I sampled and rejected. The cheese looked like half a Kraft single, with the same thickness and color. I picked it up and felt my fingers slide over its wet surface. “Hmm,” I said. “Sticky cheese.” And then I put the whole piece into my mouth. And it turned out to be butter.

I tell you this only to illustrate how little knowledge I have of the real world, and I’ve found in my six months in Turkey that in addition to teaching English, I am expected to instruct my students on how life works outside of Turkey. Not only that, but I am expected to be knowledgeable in almost every single facet and angle both east of Turkey and west of Turkey. And I can’t tell cheese from butter.

These things usually come up in conversation. Students will talk about the way something is in Turkey, then ask me about the way it is either in the States or whatever country comes to mind. Or, if I’m not careful, I’ll mention something I don’t really understand and they’ll call me on it; since I’m the teacher, I’ll have to bluff my way through it. In my medical faculty conversation class, I have had to explain the causes of the civil war, how wormholes work, the history of the U.S. space program, the history of Native Americans, theological differences between Catholics and Greek Orthodox, and why Hindus worship cows. Again – I never back down from these; usually I have read a Wikipedia article relating to the subject, or saw a movie where one of the actors in real life is Greek Orthodox. Sometimes, after two or three failed attempts, I will admit that I don’t fully know, and will promise to look it up on the internet (I don’t, and they usually forget they asked). But most of the time I fake my way through it. And I can’t really explain why, outside of trying to construct a myth for them that I am a genius.

Take today: I explained how time zones work, gave an overall history of voodoo, and explained the Greek roots of a few common English words. If nothing else, this should give you an idea of how my students’ minds work. I never change the subject – I always try to stay on one subject as long as the students will let me. They make the jumps from topic to polar opposite topic.

At the end of class, the conversation turned to diets, and I was asked a) if I dieted, and b) what were good diets. I told them I didn’t need to diet because I burned all my fat when I practiced magic alone in my room, and then I went on to explain how I imagine the Atkins diet works. Finally, I summed it all up by telling them that I was once told to stay away from anything white. I started a list: “Ranch dressing, sour cream, cream cheese -”

“Heroin?” one of the younger psychiatrists asked.

After a pause, I said, “Yes. Stay away from heroin. It will make you fat.”

The Medical Scuttlebutt

Last week I found out that the class I teach at the medical faculty is not a real class at all, but an under-the-table type deal between two university departments. As it was explained to me by my boss Hasan, “The medical faculty gave us leather couches and a flat screen television. So we agreed to send you to them.” When he tells me this, I am sitting on a new leather couch. I miss his old chairs which were all captain’s chairs with nice padded arm rests. The new leather couches are overstuffed.

Furthermore, he added: “It is not a real class. If one day you do not want to go, you should not go.”

Wow. It feels great to be needed.

But I like the medical faculty because, overall, they speak better English than my other faculty students. Doctors in Turkey need to know English, and they spend more time networking with non-Turks in their profession. So I continue to go everyday, mostly because it has become something that is not like a class at all. I haven’t created a lesson plan for it in four months. I go in, sit down, and talk about whatever the students are talking about when I entered. One day they traded stories about the relatives of patients who tried to harm them (apparently a common occurrence), while I said things like, “Shot, not shoot.”

Yesterday we were talking about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (“Like Monk,” was the only thing I could add to the conversation) and we started to digress to things like kleptomania and megalomania. Then one of my psychiatrists said, “I think this is what is wrong with Charlie Sheen.”

What? The guy from Major League and Red Dawn? What could he possibly have done that these Turks would know about?

“Maybe you mean Gary Busey,” I said.

“No, Charlie Sheen. I saw it on the news.”

“You saw what?” I asked.

Then little Buyamin, who is five foot nothing and hardly ever says a word of Turkish or English, jumped in and said, “He said…he was…from Mars.”

When I got home, I Googled Charlie Sheen, and the third hit that came up was titled, “14 Charlie Sheen Quotes Presented by Baby Sloths.” I thought, this is how I usually prefer my news. And as it turns out, Buyamin was right.

I think it’s a testament to how disconnected from the world I’ve become out here in southeastern Turkey that my adult students are updating me on celebrity gossip.

Women, We’re on to You

Most funny things in life are small moments that don’t fit into a big picture. Big picture funny things are the topics of books and movies. Most funny things are like the picture my dad sent me of the cat sleeping on my mom’s neck. Classic.

So when Turks say funny things, or when I do something stupid, it usually takes a bit of wrangling to fit it into an overall framework, to make a post-length story. The following story I couldn’t fit into any story from the past couple of weeks, but it makes me laugh, so I’ll just post what actually happened. And besides, there were a lot of bad jokes in my last post. I tried to hard.

On Friday in my conversation class I set the topic as Valentine’s Day, because it had just passed and I wanted to know what my students thought of it. Most of them didn’t celebrate. Actually – none of them did. Once I taught them the word “commercialized,” they agreed that Valentine’s Day was all about money. So instead the conversation devolved into romance and then further into (yet again) the difference between men and women, where it was stated that while women only love one man, men can love many women. The word polygamy was used repeatedly, but I can assure you that no one knew what it really meant.

Anyway, after our daily tea break (gotta have it), we resumed class and I started to direct the conversation towards other holidays, like New Years or Mother’s Day. We were deep in discussion about why moms are more sensitive than dads (men vs. women again; yet, no one ever seems to get offended), when Bunyamin, one of the silent students (there are a few who come to class not to speak but to improve their listening), spoke up and said, “Woman use eye-drop for gun.” You could tell he put a lot of thought into how to phrase it.

Your Move, SmartBoard

Last Thursday there was a frenzy in the department. Like piranha fish, instructors were swimming about in packs, bloodthirsty with excitement because of the University’s very first American SmartBoard. Even though it’s winter break, instructors are contractually obligated to be in their offices (it’s Turkey…is the only explanation I’ve gotten). So instead of drinking tea for three hours on Hassan Hoja’s new leather couches (which came with the SmartBoard upgrades), everyone crowded into the department’s primary classroom to watch a demonstration.

This is the first SmartBoard at Yuzuncu Yil, as well as in Van, and probably in all of southeastern Turkey. I sat through the demonstration, though I didn’t understand it, but I did see the board do quite a bit of intelligent things, including solving a hand written quadratic equation and playing a keyboard cat video. Unfortunately, the board has yet to receive its “this isn’t really funny” lines of code yet.

I teach my conversation classes in the primary classroom where the new SmartBoard is. The white board that was previously there has disappeared. On Monday, the day of my first class, I told Hassan Hoja that I didn’t know how to go about teaching without a white board; I didn’t know how to use the SmartBoard. He told me that it was perfectly safe to write on the SmartBoard, that the demonstrator himself had done it, and then he lead me into the primary classroom and began to write on the board with a regular marker. He kept writing my name and erasing it, saying, “It is perfectly fine!”

My class was the very first class of the university (students’ classes don’t begin until next week). Because of this, I was to be the very first instructor to teach using the SmartBoard. I spent the first part of class writing out words and then quickly erasing them before the ink had time to dry. I was still nervous, despite Hassan Hoja’s reassurances. During our class break, a couple of students came up to the board to examine it. “I do not think you should write on it,” they said, and I assured them Hassan Hoja said it was alright. The older men of the class spent the next five minutes of the break attempting to show me how to use the board by repeated pressing the button marked “Pencil” and trying to write on the board. After a while I stopped explaining that the SmartBoard needed a projector to work.

This is me, except the board isn’t on, the girl is a guy, and I’m wearing flannel.

The second half of class I relaxed and didn’t erase as I taught, so after class I stayed later and tried to scrub the board with the paper towels I had brought. However, it seemed that no matter how clean the towel was, each time I wiped the board there was still a blue tint on the surface.

I was starting to panic when Zeki Hoja, the department’s jack of all trades, appeared in the doorway. “Zeki Hoja,” I said, “thank goodness. I may need help.”

Zeki Hoja looked from me, to the board, and back to me before saying (and I quote – realize sometimes I tend to exaggerate but this entire story is the truth) – “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

The Ultimate English Lesson: How to Party

On Wednesday my speaking class held a party. It was exactly like the parties at the end of third grade. We had cake and took pictures and then I got beat up afterwards by Lewis Chase. How did he find me?

Fissun (far right, red turtleneck) was the only one who knew my iPhone was also a camera.

I thought it would be a short affair, with some sweets (I love me some Turkish sweets) and probably a present. I thought there would be a present because the day before one of the students asked me point blank what kind of present I wanted. Well, that’s not the full truth. He started out asking me if I needed a tweed suit jacket. I countered with, “How about a solid scarf?”

The party was supposed to be attended by the three instructors – Mark, Hassan and myself. Mark had another class, so it was just Hassan and I standing at the front of the room while twenty students sat in their usual desks. Before I realized what was happening, Hassan started calling on students and asking them what they liked about the course. Because I was the young gun, most all of them were nice enough to say that I was a great teacher. But eventually people got tired of saying that, and started trying to top each other. One woman, Selma, said, “My life is more colorful now.” I gave her a thumbs up. If there was an award for best comment, though, she would’ve gotten second place, finishing right behind Gulsen, who spoke last.

“I used to have no hope. Now I have hope.”

I kid you not. Gulsen said that. About me. Perhaps.

As we distributed cake, students started to ask me about my girlfriend, Holly. Holly was supposed to come to Van at the beginning the week, but because of the super criminal with the weather control device creating all the snowstorms in Europe, she’s still in Montana. Furthermore, because of her new flight schedule she has to spend the night in Istanbul before continuing on to Van.

We actually talked about this in class. While I was done teaching, the class continued for a few more lessons. I had to fill in for Hassan one day when he left town. As typical, I found out about this an hour before class.

Since I didn’t have a lesson plan, I told the class what had happened to Holly and asked for suggestions. We brainstormed, and the incredible bad-idea-ness of their thoughts was only equaled by their enormous desire to help. Here are a few things they suggested:

1) Holly takes a taxi to Taksim Square (night life central) and walks north three hundred meters, takes a left and continues two hundred meters to Mustafa’s brother’s apartment.
2) Ahmed’s daughter drives four hours to the airport to pick up Holly. They return to the daughter’s apartment, only to go back to the airport the next day, totaling sixteen hours of driving time for Ahmed’s daughter.
3) Nere’s sister (sister or aunt, I wasn’t sure), who works at the airport, will let Holly stay in her office until midnight, when the sister’s shift is finished, at which point the sister will take Holly home. Then Holly will be an honored guest in the sister’s home for the sister’s two day break.

Needless to say, I solved the problem elsewhere. But as I explained this to the class at our party, Hassan interrupted suddenly: “Yes, the problem is solved. There is a student who lives on the Asian side of Istanbul. Holly will take two buses and the metro to meet the student at a Chinese restaurant. Everything will be alright. Tamam.”